Allan Summerfield: Sport and Resilience




Allan Summerfield


Grew up on a farm at Bena, South Gippsland, but now calls Korumburra home.




Growing up in a rural community in South Gippsland in the 1960s and 70s, Allan Summerfield was like most young lads.

He “did okay” at school -- periodically found his way into strife “like most boys do” -- and spent as much time as possible outdoors playing cricket and football.

Looking back, he says it was very clear from an early age that sport was his passion and the classroom a mere distraction.

“I was better at cricket than football and in those early days I never actually got a game because I was young, and they didn’t really have junior teams,” Allan recalls.

“I reckon it was a year or two before I got my first game in football but that didn’t bother me – I loved going along to training and just being a part of it all.

“I kept trying, I kept turning up and eventually I broke through – perhaps kids today could learn a bit from my experience about the importance of resilience.”

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Allan Summerfield can certainly knows a thing or two about that.

For 26 years now, he’s lived as a paraplegic – the result of a freak accident when he was just 24-years-young and in the prime of his life.

In his own words, “there aren’t enough words” to describe the despair and fear his accident invoked.

But it was resilience that got him through – along with his passion for sport.

“I guess you could say it was a cruel twist of fate that my accident involved cricket,” he says.

“I was going to retrieve the ball and couldn’t get the gate open, so I decided to jump the fence … and as I jumped-up the top rail snapped, and I went head-first down into the concrete.

“Life as I knew it ended right there – I dislocated the fourth and fifth vertebrae, squashing my spinal cord – and from that moment on I was a paraplegic.”

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Life as a paraplegic is “more difficult than you could ever imagine”.

And as a young 24-year-old it was insurmountable for Allan to come to terms with.

“You go from being an active young adult, not relying on anyone and doing whatever you please, to suddenly being frozen in a wheelchair, incapacitated and relying on everyone around you to do absolutely everything for you,” he says.

“I mean, I need someone to get me a drink, I need someone to sit me up, I need someone to help me eat, I need someone to put me to bed – I have no independence.

“When the accident occurred it truly was a terrifying time; I didn’t know where I was going to live, how I would survive day-to-day or even if I wanted to live in such a way.

“I ended-up stuck in a nursing home for a period of time, which was unavoidable but incredibly isolating and I hated it.

“Fortunately, my cricket and football clubs came together and raised money to build me a special home, but without them I definitely would have been stuck there longer.”

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Sport would soon become a cornerstone of Allan’s rehabilitation.

Though he could no longer participate in the games he loved, he would establish a life-long affiliation off the field.

Club president, secretary, treasurer – he’s basically done it all and, to this day, remains actively involved in the Korumburra Cricket Club.

“Cricket and footy were an integral part of my rehab,” Allan says.

“No, I couldn’t ever play again but just going along, just being a part of it all felt natural.

“I think that’s part of being involved in a club – that when something like this happens, when tragedy occurs, the community bands together and helps out.

“And I think sporting clubs, particularly country sporting clubs, do this better than anyone else because comradery and mateship is the name of their game.”

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There’s an old adage, something about sport being “so much more than the game itself”.

It rings true for Allan Summerfield.

Sport is life.